How to Find the Best Mattress for Back Pain, According to The Sleep Doctor

best mattress for back pain

Your choice of mattress matters more than you think. People with acute and chronic back pain often experience worse quality sleep than those who report being pain free. That means if you suffer from back pain, then it’s a safe bet you likely also struggle with getting a good night’s sleep. Back pain robs you of your time to rest up and recharge, and it too often makes what should be the pleasant thought of turning in for the night a stressful one—which is why finding the best mattress for back pain is so critical.

Often, your mattress is not addressing your sleep needs and supporting your spine’s natural curve the way it needs. In this case, it’s best to ditch the old bed and start from scratch. A new mattress can help you achieve better rest, and they come in many varieties. There are plenty of other variables aside from mattress type to consider before investing in one, such as your personal sleeping preferences and your particular kind of back pain. In fact, it’s easy to feel a little intimidated by all the choices you have to make when shopping for a mattress.

To help you on your mattress-buying journey, board-certified sleep specialist Michael Breus, Ph.D, otherwise known as The Sleep Doctor™, Ph.D. partnered with the experts at Mattress Advisor to review the 9 best mattresses for people suffering from back pain. The Mattress Advisor team tested these mattresses at their lab in Raleigh, North Carolina to see which performed best for spine alignment, pressure relief, and responsiveness––all vital for sleepers seeking relief from back pain. These mattresses were analyzed via 14 different pieces of criteria and then rated on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest possible score.

Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.

Best Overall:

The 9 Best Mattresses for Back Pain, According to Experts

1. The Sleep Doctor’s Pick: Saatva Classic

Saatva Classic’s lumbar support technology is specially designed to help sleepers who are dealing with upper and lower back pain. A lumbar support layer reinforces the middle of the Saatva Classic mattress to prevent your lower back from sinking (9.5 out of 10 for spine alignment). Two different layers of coils firmly boost up your body, so that no pressure can surround your upper and lower back.

The coil layers in this mattress also help the Saatva stay durable (10 out of 10) and cool (8.5 out of 10) by allowing body heat to move away from sleepers. The Saatva Classic has three firmness levels to choose from, ranging from soft to true firm. For dealing with lower back pain, take a look at the luxury firm or firm models, though the plush-soft model is a good choice for side sleepers looking for a softer sleep surface. But if you’re not convinced, fear not; you can always try the Saatva Classic with a 120-day trial period.

  • Mattress Type: Luxury Hybrid
  • Customer Rating: 8 out of 5
  • Firmness: Plush, Luxury Firm, and Firm
  • Warranty: 15-Year Limited

Buy It, Saatva Classic Mattress, $1,574 for a Queen, saatva.com

2. Best for Side Sleepers: Helix Midnight Luxe

Side sleepers who opt for the Helix Midnight Luxe will not be sorry about their purchase. The hybrid mattress has lumbar support built in, thanks to its coil core layer which ensures consistent spinal alignment (9 out of 10) and even weight distribution. And not only does the mattress provide softer support for your shoulders in its upper region, it delivers firmer support around your hips to stop your lower back from sinking too far into the mattress––otherwise known as “zoned support” design. 

A layer of gel-infused memory foam provides cushioning and helps eliminate pressure points (8.5 out of 10). Meanwhile, a dense layer of foam that serves as the bottom layer makes the mattress highly durable (9 out of 10), so it’ll provide great support for years. The Helix Luxe Midnight is also a great mattress for hot sleepers. It uses an innovative built-in cooling cover to absorb heat and regulate your body temperature (9.5 out of 10). 

  • Mattress Type: Hybrid
  • Customer Rating: 4.5 out of 5
  • Firmness: Medium
  • Warranty: 15-Year Limited Warranty

Buy It, Helix Midnight Luxe, $1,949 for a Queen, helixsleep.com

3. Best Cooling: GhostBed Luxe

Many mattress manufacturers will utilize a variety of cooling materials to help regulate body temperature as you fall asleep. How many of these mattresses are actually cooling, though? In the case with the GhostBed Flex, GhostBed takes it a step further by adding its own cooling tech in each layer of the mattress. Cooling fabric, fibers, and foam are fused into everything, from the mattress cover to the base foam. This set the testing team’s bar high, and when the Luxe was put through a trial run, it delivered a 9 out of 10 for cooling.

For sleepers with back pain, the Luxe’s all-foam makeup strikes a balance between excellent spine alignment (9.25 out of 10) and pressure relief (8.5 out of 10). 

  • Mattress Type: Gel Memory Foam
  • Customer Rating: 4.7 out of 5
  • Firmness: Medium-firm
  • Warranty: 25-Year limited

Buy It, GhostBed Luxe, $2,045 for a Queen, ghostbed.com

4. Best Value: Nectar

For great back support that does not put a hurting on your wallet, the Nectar gives you both quality and affordability. Its responsive memory foam layers are designed to relieve pressure points, such as under the shoulders and hips (8.5 out of 10 for pressure relief). These layers also can absorb and stifle motion transfer (8.5 out of 10), which is important for couples who want to avoid sleep disruptions. So, no matter your preferred sleeping position, the Nectar mattress has your back by responding when you move around (8.5 out of 10).

You might think a budget-friendly mattress might have a catch, but Nectar is more than happy to let you put its product to the ultimate test with an amazing 365-trial period and a lifetime warranty.  

  • Mattress Type: Memory Foam
  • Customer Rating: 4.8 out of 5
  • Firmness: Medium-Firm
  • Lifetime Warranty

Buy It, Nectar Mattress, $799 for a Queen, nectarsleep.com

5. Best for Pressure Relief: WinkBeds GravityLux

Aches and back pain can be a nuisance, wreaking havoc on your sleep and joint health. The GravityLux by WinkBeds thoughtfully compiles different layers of memory foam that all serve different purposes. Its top layer adapts around your body, relieving pressure around the upper and lower back. At its core, responsive foam focuses on keeping the spine from sinking into the bed and preserving its natural alignment. The base foam helps with the mattress’s overall longevity. 

Whether you’re dealing with chronic pain or are seeking a balanced feel from your mattress, the memory foam construction of the GravityLux is worth a look.

  • Mattress Type: Memory Foam
  • Customer Rating: 4.8 out of 5
  • Firmness: Medium-Firm
  • Trial: 120 Nights
  • Lifetime Warranty

Buy It, WinkBeds GravityLux Mattress, $1,799 for a Queen, winkbeds.com

6. Best Luxury: DreamCloud Luxury Hybrid

Perhaps you’re looking for the whole package when it comes to your new mattress, and back pain relief is just one aspect that is being offered. With remarkable test scores for spine alignment, pressure relief, durability, responsiveness, and motion isolation, the DreamCloud is hard to beat––especially when you take into account its affordable price point.  

Aside from test scores, the luxury details packed into the DreamCloud are hard to pass up. Cashmere is woven into its cover, and a Euro pillow top parlays an even, cushioned sleep surface. 

  • Mattress Type: Hybrid
  • Customer Rating: 4.6 out of 5
  • Firmness: Medium-Firm
  • Trial: 365-Night Sleep Trial
  • Lifetime Warranty

Buy It, DreamCloud, $1,598 for a Queen, dreamcloudsleep.com

7. Best Extra-Firm: Brooklyn Bedding Plank

A firm mattress may be the best way to alleviate and prevent future back pain, by providing an even and supportive sleep surface to keep your back supported. It’s also vital to make sure sensitive joints are also supported as well. Plank by Brooklyn Bedding was built for incredible full-body support. It can be flipped between a firm (7 out of 10) and an extra-firm (9 out of 10) side. 

While there’s no contouring effect with this foam mattress, both sides work to keep the spine supported (8.75 out of 10) and keep pressure from amassing around your body.

  • Mattress Type: Foam
  • Customer Rating: 4.9 out of 5
  • Firmness: Firm, Extra-Firm
  • Trial: 120-Night Sleep Trial
  • Warranty: 10-Year 

Buy It, Brooklyn Bedding Plank, $1,274 for a Queen, plankmattress.com

8. Best for Sex: Puffy Lux

Firm mattresses are great for helping to spice up your sex life. Since there’s little to no give, you can easily move around without feeling like you’re sinking in quicksand. The Puffy Lux is receptive to movement with the help of responsive coils (9.25 out of 10) while keeping pressure off of your lumbar region (9.5 out of 10).

Cooling is also an important feature to look for when shopping for the best mattress for sex, and the Puffy Lux dispels heat with ease (8.75 out of 10).

  • Mattress Type: Hybrid
  • Customer Rating: 5 out of 5
  • Firmness: Medium-firm
  • Trial: 101-Night Sleep Trial
  • Lifetime Warranty

Buy It, Puffy Lux, $1,799 for a Queen, puffy.com

9Best Latex: Birch

Latex’s key characteristics include a springy, responsive feel with excellent pressure relief. It’s a popular material used in organic, hypoallergenic mattresses. However, there’s a lot of benefits in using it to stave off back pain. The Birch hybrid mattress has two key components: innerspring coils and thick Talalay latex. While an organic cotton and wool top layer provide you with a hypoallergenic, naturally cooling sleep surface a layer of latex is able to redirect weight from targeting your pressure points (8 out of 10). The lower back is pushed up by durable coils, maintaining a healthy posture no matter if you sleep on your side, back, stomach, or a combination of positions.

Testers found the Birch’s latex absorbed a great deal of motion, keeping the mattress stable (9 out of 10).  

  • Mattress Type: Latex Hybrid
  • Customer Rating: 4.7 out of 5
  • Firmness: Medium-Firm
  • Trial: 100-Night Sleep Trial
  • Warranty: 25-Year 

Buy It, Birch, $1,699 for a Queen, birchliving.com

The Right Level of Support for Back Pain Sufferers

For starters, no matter what type of back pain or soreness you suffer from, a mattress should keep your spine aligned throughout the night. Good posture is important even when you sleep, believe it or not, so the more support a mattress provides the better. But buyer beware: Just because a mattress is firm doesn’t mean it mean it provides full-body support. Likewise, while a softer mattress may feel nice and comfortable when you try it out in the store, it’s best to steer away from abundantly soft mattresses altogether due to their lack of support.

While every sleeper will need to evaluate their specific needs, the best solution might be to choose a medium-firm mattress. A study designed to explore the relationship between sleep surfaces and chronic back pain published in The Lancet medical journal found that 82 percent of patients who slept on medium-firm (vs. firm) mattresses saw improvements in their back pain.

The reality is, if you’re experiencing any mid or upper back pain, you need a mattress that can properly support your shoulders, while still being comfortable enough to sleep on.

“Support and comfort are two different aspects which a mattress can address,” explains Dr. Breus. “Support is the appropriate use of underlying materials that will allow for spinal alignment. Why do you need your spine aligned? When the spine is properly supported and aligned when the body sleeps, the muscles will relax and recover (this is known as stages 3 and 4 of deep sleep where the physical restoration occurs). Without this alignment, the muscles will continue to stay tense, in order to try and force the spine into alignment. Over a 6-8 hour period of time, these muscles will fatigue from the constant tension, not recover. In addition if pain is present, it will increase over time, and the brain does not go into deep sleep when a pain signal is coming in. And the tension itself can keep people in a lighter stage of sleep due to the body’s need to relax to recover. Finally, alignment allows for proper rehydration of the vertebral disks. A healthy spine is one where all the discs are fully hydrated, otherwise we see back pain.”  

Liken it to a sandwich. There’s a difference between comfort and support — support is the turkey, or the foundation of the sandwich. And comfort is what makes it taste good: the lettuce, tomato, mayo, etc. Support is this notion of alignment and support that allows for a flattening of the spinal frame. Comfort is what allows you to adhere to that position. If it’s too firm, you’re restless, trying to get comfortable. If it’s too soft, you’ll have back pain.

The Best Mattress for Back Pain, According to Your Sleeping Position

While you’re on the hunt for the right mattress, there are steps you can take right now to help you with your back pain. For example, changing how you lie in bed––be it on your back, side, stomach, or a mix of all three––can make a big difference in how much you irritate existing back pain or create new pains altogether.

As Dr. Breus explains in his article about sleep positions, there is no “one size fits all” approach when it comes to picking the best sleep position. Each position has its own pros and cons, which can vary greatly from person to person. That said, the side sleeping position can reduce back pain more than other positions, provided you have a supportive mattress because it doesn’t put direct pressure on your spine. If you’re looking to reduce back pain without completely changing your sleep preferences, there are still small tweaks you can make, and Cleveland Clinic and Mayo Clinic both offer tips on how to improve your posture regardless of how you sleep.

However it should be noted that if you have sleep apnea, and it is not being treated you will want to stay off your back, until you can get appropriate treatment.

How Firmness Impacts Your Choice of the Best Mattress for Back Pain

We can’t talk about sleeping and its relationship to back problems without discussing mattress firmness in greater detail. The two factors are closely link; whether you’re a back sleeper, a side sleeper, a stomach sleeper, or someone who mixes it up from one night to the next, how you sleep carries a lot of sway when it comes to figuring out the level of firmness you should look for in a mattress.

“First thing you need to establish is the right support system for you and your back,” says Dr. Breus. “Comfort is the next issue to address. Almost no mattress has you sleeping on the basic support layer (no matter what it is made of), so the additional layers on the bed are used for your body’s comfort. These layers are usually made of cushioning materials like memory foam or latex to give that extra “bounce” and cradling sensation. The goal is to have a surface that conforms to the unique shape of your body, while keeping your spine aligned, based on your sleeping position.”

Here’s a quick breakdown of The Sleep Doctor’s recommendations for how firm your mattress should be based on your sleeping position.

Back Sleeping

It’s worth mentioning that sleeping on your back is your best bet for a pain-free day. When you sleep on your back, your head, neck, and spine rest in a neutral position. And, according to Cleveland Clinic, your weight gets evenly distributed across the widest surface of your body, which helps eliminate pressure points.

The Sleep Doctor recommends that back sleepers should aim to sleep for 7-9 hours on a firm to medium-firm mattress. Mattresses that are too soft won’t allow your body to align in a neutral position. Conversely, mattresses that are too hard won’t have any give for the natural curvature of your lower back.

Side Sleeping

Sleeping on your side has some noteworthy health benefits. It helps with digestion and can reduce back and neck pain. But paired with the wrong mattress, you may be dealing with shoulder pain or aching in your hips. Side sleepers need a mattress that contours with the widest areas of their body, while delivering pressure point relief. A mattress with this range of firmness cushions under the shoulders and hips while also keeping those areas aligned with the rest of your body.

Stomach Sleeping

If you do sleep on your stomach and it’s the only way you can doze off, you probably have a hard time keeping your spine in a neutral position throughout the night, which is key for reducing or preventing back and neck pain. You’re also putting unhealthy pressure on your muscles and joints.

The wrong combination of pillow and mattress puts your neck in an unnatural position when sleeping on your stomach. Short of trying a new sleeping position altogether, Dr. Breus recommends pairing a thin pillow with a firm mattress. The thin pillow helps keep your neck lined up with the rest of your body, while a firm mattress provides the needed support for your lower back that you won’t get from a too-soft mattress.

Combination Sleepers

Maybe you’re the sleeper that does it all. You might fall asleep on your stomach, flop over on your back, and wake up in the morning on your side. If you do find yourself in the combination sleeper camp, then a versatile mattress is a must. You need firm support in the center of the mattress for times when you’re sleeping on your stomach, but you also need a little more give for your hips and shoulders for times when you sleep on your side.

The Sleep Doctor recommends a mattress that helps keep your spine aligned as much as possible regardless of sleep position. A mattress with one consistent level of firmness likely won’t do the trick, but the right memory foam mattress, like the Nectar, can lend the best overall support and help reduce pressure points as you switch things up throughout the night.

Mattress Type

Aside from figuring out how firm your mattress should be based on your sleeping position, you’ll also need to think about the construction of a mattress and the materials used to make it. You don’t need reminding that there is no shortage of mattress types on the market today. But even the same mattress type (say, two memory foam mattresses) will vary between brands. Some types and brands will be a better fit for you than others, all depending on your body shape, weight, and sleeping preferences.

Memory Foam Mattresses

A memory foam mattress doesn’t have coils, so it supports areas of the body where there could otherwise be pressure points. Since side sleepers tend to need more support for their shoulders and hips, which are concentrated impact areas when sleeping on your side, they should generally find a memory foam mattress more helpful in preventing or reducing back pain. One drawback, however, is that a memory foam mattress tends to trap heat.

Hybrid Mattresses

Hybrid mattresses are designed to offer the best of two mattress types: the support of a coil mattress with the contouring nature and pressure relief of a foam mattress.

While not always the case, hybrid mattresses tend to cost more than memory foam options since they do have coils built into them. The tradeoff is that a hybrid mattress combines the technology and structure of an innerspring mattress with soft foam products to bring sleepers the best of both worlds. A good hybrid mattress also offers extra support for back sleepers and stomach sleepers.

Innerspring Mattresses

Innerspring mattresses are composed of metal coils, and more modern designs boast hybrid features such as one or more layers of foam on top of individually pocketed springs. These hybrid innerspring mattresses can often provide the contouring and pressure point reduction of foam options.

Latex Mattresses

The latex material provides moderate contouring, so it cushions your body without letting your neck, back, shoulders, or hips sink too far down and out of alignment. Like the innerspring mattress, a latex mattress doesn’t trap a ton of heat because it is naturally a more porous material. Latex is also naturally resistant to the build-up of bacteria and other microbes.

Most rubber latex mattresses on the market today use all-natural latex from trees, though you will find some models that use synthetic or blended latex.

Some Parting Words Regarding Back Pain

You don’t have to let the stress of shopping for a mattress keep you up at night––and you shouldn’t have to deal with pain when you wake up in the morning. This list of The Sleep Doctor’s mattress picks will help you find the one that will keep your back pain in check, so you can take back control of your sleep.

Sources for this Article

Breus, Michael. 2019. “Low Back Pain and Sleep.” The Sleep Doctor (blog), December 14, 2019. https://thesleepdoctor.com/2019/12/14/low-back-pain-sleep/?cn-reloaded=1

Cleveland Clinic. 2019. “Is Your Sleep Position Causing You Back Pain?” Health Essentials (blog), August 29, 2019. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/sleep-position-causing-back-pain/

Mayo Clinic, 2020. “Slide show: Sleeping positions that reduce back pain” https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/back-pain/multimedia/sleeping-positions/sls-20076452?s=2

Casper Editorial Team, 2020. “How To Sleep With Back Pain: 5 Tips for Relief.” Casper (blog), March 4, 2020. https://casper.com/blog/how-to-sleep-with-back-pain/

The Lancet, 2003. “Effect of firmness of mattress on chronic non-specific low-back pain.” The Lancet (Vol. 362, Issue 93396), November 15, 2003 https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(03)14792-7/fulltext#secd8814777e1475

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Julia Forbes is an Associate Editor at Pillar4 Media and contributing editor to TheSleepDoctor.com who prefers to keep the room as cold as possible, no matter what time of year it is. 

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